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Amy LeTourneur

How to Escape the NaNoWriMo Doldrums

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sailboat on flat seas - Work in Progress blog by Amy LeTourneurIt is Day Eighteen of NaNo, my friends.

Or, as I like to think of it, the NaNoWriMo doldrums.

The doldrums are an area of the ocean where the winds that sailing vessels rely on simply disappear. The seas are flat, the sails lay slack, and without the help of a gas-powered motor, a vessel can be trapped floating in the middle of nowhere for weeks at a time.

Just like a sailing vessel on the high seas, most of us glide right through the first two weeks of NaNoWriMo. The excitement of a new project billows our sails, propelling us across page after page at record speed.

But now, in the third week of NaNoWriMo, we’ve hit the “messy middle.” The doldrums.

The winds of enthusiasm are gone…and with them, our words.

If you’re anything like me, my friend, you could use a pep talk right about now. So today, I’m going to share five things that can help you escape the NaNoWriMo doldrums.


1. Applause.  

cupcake with sparkler - Work in Progress blog by Amy LeTourneurNo matter where you are – your office, your kitchen, the corner table at Panera – take a minute to give yourself a little round of applause. (And get yourself a cupcake while you’re at it. You deserve it. 😉)

Yes, even if your word count is lower than you’d like it to be.

And yes, even if you’re not on pace to “win” NaNoWriMo.

Writing fifty thousand words in a month is hard. Heck, even just writing every day is hard! So give yourself props for making it this far. Every word you’ve written in your manuscript this month is a word you didn’t have last month. So take a few minutes to celebrate your accomplishment! And keep celebrating, no matter how slowly your word count grows. Every word is a win. Every. Single. One.



No, I’m not cursing at you. BICFOK – a common acronym in the authorverse – stands for Butt In Chair, Fingers On Keys. No matter what other tips you follow here, none of them will help you escape the NaNoWriMo doldrums unless you also: 

Sit your butt in your chair.

Put your fingers on your keys.

And type.

loose diamonds - Work in Progress blog by Amy LeTourneurI know, I know, writing this way often produces a whole lotta gibberish, and I hate writing drivel as much as you do. But think of it this way. Every diamond was once hidden deep in the earth. In order for it to reach the surface and shine in all its brilliance, someone had to go digging.

And that’s what you’re doing with BICFOK. You’re simply digging up the earth so that later you can sift through it, wash the dirt away, and uncover the gems hidden inside. They may be tiny – no bigger than a grain – but they’ll be there. Trust me. And in the revision phase, you’ll be able to take that little gem and polish it til it shines.




3. Read.

woman reading with blanket - Work in Progress blog by Amy LeTourneurIf your NaNo writing time is already limited, then it may seem counterintuitive to spend time reading. But diving into a good book can really get your writing mojo back on track. Digesting a well-crafted story can help you see (and fix) your plot holes, improve your dialogue, and inspire and motivate you to get back to work on your own novel.

But even reading a badly written book can help you escape the NaNoWriMo doldrums. We’ve all read books that just totally missed the mark and thought, “How on earth did this utter banality get published?”

And yet, somehow, it did. 🤨

I don’t know about you, but when I read a novel that falls flat, it just adds fuel to my writing fire. Because if that book made it to print, then mine can, too. And so can yours.

So get back to writing. 😊


4. Exercise.


woman in inverted bow and arrow pose - Work in Progress blog by Amy LeTourneurI know, I know. Exercise isn’t my fave, either. But, as I explained in this recent post, moving your body is a surefire way to get your brain moving, as well. Physical activity not only pumps more oxygen to the brain, but studies have also shown that the hormones released during exercise can significantly improve cognitive function.

And this activity doesn’t have to be as intense as this bow and arrow inversion. (But can I say wow? Just…wow.) As little as 10-15 minutes of exercise before every writing session will help you get those words flowing again. Not sure what to do for your pocket-sized PE session? You could:

  • Follow an online workout routine. This article from self.com offers several time-savvy workouts, from a no-sweat routine to a 10-minute HIIT sequence.
  • Do a brief yoga practice. I like the Yoga with Kassandra channel on YouTube, which posts a free 10-minute yoga practice every day.
  • Take the dogs (or the kids) for a quick walk around the neighborhood. They’ll love you for it!

But if exercise really isn’t your thing, then there are other ways to get your blood pumping. Even normal household chores –vacuuming, scrubbing the bathtub, washing the car – can bump up your heart rate to improve your brain function.

More words and a clean house? Sign me up. 😉


5. Bribery.

woman getting facial massage - Work in Progress blog by Amy LeTourneurWhen all else fails…bribe yourself.

When you’re stuck in the NaNoWriMo doldrums, giving yourself a little graft every now and then can blow wind into your sails to help you reach your goals. Enjoy an indulgent treat every time you hit your daily word count goal. Buy yourself a little gift for every benchmark (30k, 40k, etc.) you pass. And when you hit that ultimate 50,000 word goal, pamper yourself with a massage. (You’ve earned it!)   

Of course, your goals – and the bribes you choose to help you reach them – will depend on your own circumstances, tastes, and budget. But bribing yourself can be an effective way to get the words flowing.


Penny for your thoughts…


Are you stuck in the doldrums? What steps do you plan to take to navigate your way out of them? Let me know in the comments below!

During NaNoWriMo – even when you’re stuck in the doldrums – you know exactly what you’re supposed to do every day. Write, write, and write some more. But when December 1st rolls around, you may be scratching your head and thinking, “Now what?” So on December 2nd, I’ll be back with a post about what to do after the NaNo glow has worn off. Until then, buckle up, buttercup, and let’s write!


In case you missed it: Want a few easy tips to help you conquer NaNoWriMo like a boss? Find all the goods here.

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